News: SHARP victim advocacy program grows in numbers to assist victims of sexual harassment and assault
Story by Staff Sgt. Patricia McMurphy
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - To help defeat sexual harassment and assault more than 20 soldiers participated in a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention course from Jan. 27 – Feb. 7 at Fort Wainwright’s Mission Training Complex.
The intent of the Army’s SHARP program is to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault before they occur with the goal of eliminating sexual harassment and assault by creating a command climate that respects every member of the Army.
“We have noticed a lot of victims don’t come forward or don’t talk about it because they don’t know what services they can get or who is there to help them,” said Sgt. 1st Class Aretha Garrett, U.S. Army Alaska equal opportunity adviser. “Since the SHARP program [became] a priority for the military, we have seen that more victims are now coming forward and talking about it.”
The SHARP course, a two-week instructional course, gives participants basic guidelines on how to operate and function as unit victim advocates or SHARP representatives for their units with duties that include, but are not limited to, coordinating medical assistance for the victim, coordinating chaplain’s assistance, proper notification procedures, proper reporting procedures, and of course, training. They must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“They are taking the training and what they learned is that they did not know [certain things fall under] sexual harassment,” said Garrett. “Now they know.”
The Army continues to face the battle with sexual harassment and sexual assault head on by taking responsibility for the good, bad and ugly of related incidents. Students who complete the course will go back to their units and take on the task of being a company- or brigade-level SHARP representative.
Having victim advocates at brigade and company levels gives victims someone they can interact with when they don’t feel comfortable talking with someone they don’t know. The victim can talk with the advocates at their units and gain more information on how to report sexual assault and harassment cases and the advocates are there for the victim every step of the way and ensure the victims gets whatever help they need.
The course has not only taught these victim advocates how to help victims now, but also prepared some for possible future roles they may encounter during their military career like 1st Lt. Jacob Ford, platoon leader with the 73rd Engineer Company, Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
“It definitely gives me a broader scope of sexual harassment cases and sexual assault cases, and now I know what to expect from my victim advocates and SHARP specialist on the brigade level and also the responsibilities of a commander at my level,” said Ford. “So if it ever comes down to me making a determination on how to prosecute these cases I feel I will be more informed now and understand the process better.
“The biggest take away for me other than getting a broad scope of what to do during those situations was how difficult it can be to interact with victims and I took away a lot of good techniques to deal with those situations,” he added.
The victim advocates can help commanders provide an open, safe climate within their units. This provides additional resources for victims and helps to increase education within the unit.
“It was a good class,” Ford said. “I would recommend it for those that have the desire to be a SHARP specialist.”
To find out more about the Army’s SHARP program and learn how to get involved, log on to: http://www.sexualassault.army.mil/
This work, SHARP victim advocacy program grows in numbers to assist victims of sexual harassment and assault, by SSG Patricia McMurphy, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.